March 10 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Labour councillors have warned that the privatisation of Suffolk’s road maintenance work has meant it is more difficult to get small schemes undertaken.
They are especially concerned that the cost of minor repairs means that kerbs and pavements cannot be properly maintained on housing estates in Ipswich.
However politicians at the Conservative-controlled county council insist problems with getting work carried out has nothing to do with the decision to transfer the road maintenance work to private company Kier MG in October last year.
County councillors each have a “locality budget” of £12,000 to spend on any projects in their division and a further £8,000 to spend on highways improvements in their division.
Labour transport spokeswoman Sandra Gage said that since the transfer it was difficult to get any work done, because much of the budget would be swallowed up in designing any improvement. Previously officers would have prepared a plan and the money would have been spent on implementing it.
She said: “If it costs £2,500 to get a proposal designed, which is the going rate, it leaves very little to actually make any improvements – they can say the transfer has been successful, but that’s not our experience on the streets of Ipswich.”
She had hoped to spend her £8,000 on improving kerbs in her Rushmere division in Ipswich, especially in Inverness Road where neighbours have been complaining about their condition.
However Suffolk transport spokesman Graham Newman said the change was nothing to do with the transfer of the highways contract.
He said: “This is something that was happening sometime before the service was transferred. We were finding that councillors were asking our engineers to draw up plans – which they were doing – and this was taking them away from their other important business.
“We had to put a cost on that – and that is the situation that continues now that the contract has been transferred.”
Mr Newman said it was possible to add part of the general locality budget to the highways budget if there were road programmes costing more than £8,000 that councillors wanted to be developed.
“Or they could link up with neighbouring councillors to pool their locality budgets,” he added.